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Spiritual Warfare for Practical People (Intermission – Issue 36)

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I woke up with my heart leaping from my chest. My mind and emotions were not at rest. I had made some decisions that might have impacted my family negatively. I felt a lack of communication and a tangible sense of unease in some of my primary relationships. I felt more tired than I thought I should be, flat spiritually and as if discouragement had somehow attached itself to my insides. In other words, I felt some kind of spiritual resistance. I think I was under attack!

Scripture tells us we have three primary enemies: the devil, the world and the flesh. When D.L Moody – an American evangelist in 1837-1899 – was asked one day, “Who is the biggest obstacle in your ministry?” his response was, “D.L. Moody!” That has also been my experience. My biggest problems are usually caused by… well, me, to be honest.  But before we get too discouraged, Moody also said, “If this world is going to be reached, I am convinced that it must be done by men and women of average talent.”

And I think that means we don’t need to be spiritual giants or super humans to deal with spiritual attack. But we may need to be alert, because the devil, that enemy Satan, is an opportunist, and just loves to find a chink in our armour. He tries to irritate, distract or harm us. It can be mistakes we make, sins we commit, sins of omission, and even sins we have been forgiven that he may suggest we are not really forgiven for, that Satan will use against us.

So when we find ourselves in what may very well be a spiritual storm, what can we do? Scripture is the obvious place to start, and I love the clear, practical advice in James 4:6-10:

 “But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

’God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble’.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”  

Good old James is so sensible and practical, isn’t he? The following are some practical steps we can take.

Submit to God. Do things God’s way. Am I part of the problem, in my actions and attitudes? Confess it to God. Clean up any unfinished business. Is there anyone I have harmed or neglected etc? Go to them soon, apologise and ask for forgiveness. Then, resist the devil. Simply, clearly and with the authority God has promised in the scripture above. I believe that if you’ve acted on the first two steps, then any legal ground the enemy may have to hassle you is gone. You will find that “mountains” become “molehills” pretty quickly, the fog will lift and you will be able to see the sun and the way forward again.

Just a small example of this. My wife, Ruth, and I pastored churches in New Zealand for about ten years, and we had five small children. And if ever Ruth and I were going to have an argument, it would seem to erupt just before we were heading off to church on Sunday mornings. If ever a child could not find one shoe, it would be Sunday morning. If ever a child was to throw up all over their best clothes, yes, it would be Sunday morning! So, we would not arrive at church happy and serene as befitting our station! It didn’t take too long to see this was becoming a pattern. Did the devil cause these things or just take advantage of them happening? I’m not sure, but what I do know is that he loved to see us angry and frustrated right before we headed off to church.

When we prayed that this pattern – and our reactions – would change, almost immediately things improved. Yes, there was still the occasional lost shoe or vomit, but our reactions to these things became much gentler and more loving towards each other. And, as a bonus, we became more strategic as well! We would make sure all the shoes and clothes were laid out and ready on Saturday night. Also, I (Mike) would try and have my sermon written and finished off by Thursday night to relieve any ‘late pressure’.

Usually, when I don’t see a change for the better or have a breakthrough, it’s because I have tried to shortcut the process, and have not completed steps one and two properly before entering the battle. I have to remember that “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” I believe the most effective warfare stance is the bent knee and a humble, teachable heart.

Some may say, “This battle is not spiritual, it is emotional, psychological, physical, circumstantial, etc. and I don’t see a devil or demon hiding behind a bush waiting to attack.” Well that is ok; however you perceive it is fine with me. Yet I still think the principles outlined in James will put you in a far more secure place, knowing that you are submitted to God, open to his guidance and striving to be at peace with others in your world.

This will give you victory over many kinds of battles.

Mike works on staff at the NZCMS central office in Christchurch. 

This article is part of NZCMS’ quarterly magazine Intermission. Each article will be uploaded periodically and can be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission. Alternatively, to receive a physical copy of the magazine, feel free to email us at office@nzcms.org.nz or call on 03 377 2222. 

What is the Battle? (Intermission – Issue 36)

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The current issue of our Intermission magazine is about the ‘battle’ humanity finds itself in. The battle against spiritual evil. The battle against injustice. The battle against ourselves. There’s some pretty deep stuff in here.

You may be thinking to yourself, “Jairus, I don’t actually think I’m in a battle.” Well, whether you believe you’re in one or not, you’re bound to recognise that there’s something not quite ‘right’ with the world you live in. And there’s something not quite right with humanity either. With me. With you.

Paul wrote in Romans 7:15-16, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” How perfectly does this describe the battle raging within us and the world? The division of right and wrong, good and evil, truth and lies. Something is broken. And I believe it’s time we start recognising that God does not intend for it to stay that way. And, perhaps more importantly, he doesn’t mean for us to passively watch on either!

The kingdom of evil and the Kingdom of Heaven

This realm, this kingdom of brokenness and lies, is visible every day. It rules in the news, where we see what subjective, biased producers want us to see.

We see it in romance movies, where teenagers are taught that the most important things about a relationship are how physically attracted you are to the other and how they make you feel.

We see it in politics and bills that are passed, where men and women push forward policies, not based on the common good and the public majority, but upon their own personal agendas and vendettas.

This is not what God intends for our world to look like. This is not how God intends for us to act. So what do I think of when I imagine the Kingdom of God? And what could God be calling us to? What does this “Kingdom of Heaven” that his Son talked about so often look like?

Does it look like a marriage, in which the foundation of the relationship is not about how the couple makes each other feel, but about serving and strengthening each other so that they can better follow God?

Does it look like a news reporter who pursues truth and the authentic presentation of facts to the public, so that the leaders of our country are held accountable for their actions?

Does it look like a God-follower throwing himself or herself into the political realms so they can walk into the public spheres of our communities and, instead of yelling, “I have all the answers!” humbly ask, “What are the questions I should be asking?”

I’m sure you can agree that, when you imagine the Kingdom of Heaven, it looks entirely different to what we often experience. Or even how we ourselves tend to act.

So what now?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, I’m not writing this article just for the sake of it. I’m not trying to sound enthusiastic and passionate for fun. I am genuinely pleading with you to begin considering this question: “Am I happy about the current condition of the world?”

I, for one, feel my heart starting to beat a little bit faster when I ask myself that question. My imagination takes over, and I feel my faith beginning to grow and anger – yes anger – bubbling up as I come to realise how subtly and how effectively Satan has twisted things. Or how we’ve twisted them ourselves.

This article isn’t your typical Intermission piece in which I write a thousand words and ask you some questions to reflect on at the end. This article is meant to create a hunger within you for change. It’s supposed to remind you that God intends for us to do something about the brokenness and evil we see in this world. And it’s supposed to help you realise that first: we need to become aware of the enemy we are facing. And second: we need to devise some strategies so we can fight back. I’m sure that, without both of these working together, we will lack the power that God intends to give us.

In Matthew 10:16, Jesus says this:

“Look, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves; therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

So how about it, fellow Christians? Will you be someone who walks through the evil and broken places of this world and overcomes and restores it into the image of the Kingdom of Heaven? Will you move as Jesus did through the shadows and call on God to fill them with light? Will you be a soldier in the battle for the Kingdom of Heaven? Because the enemy is out there. And God is continuously looking for someone who is willing to put up a fight.

Note from the Editor (Intermission – Issue 36)

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NZCMS publishes a magazine called Intermission four times a year. Among other things it addresses missions work from a variety of angles, inspiring and encouraging individuals, small groups and churches all over New Zealand. This month we will be publishing our 36th Issue titled “Are you prepared for battle?”

Harrison Ford says the following in a movie called “42”.

“Your enemy will be out in force and you cannot meet him on his own low ground.” The film is about Jackie Robinson, the first African American baseball player to play in an all-white team and an all-white league. It’s an incredible movie and it paints the picture of how brutal, vicious and conniving the ‘powers that be’ were in trying to stop Jackie from playing the sport he loved

But Ford’s character trains Jackie how to deal with his enemies’ attacks. He tells him to respond differently. Not react to a nasty comment with one of his own. Not to punch back when an opposing player strikes him. But to flip it. To change lanes. Switch gears. He taught him to come back at his opposition with something they couldn’t respond to.

In this issue of Intermission, we will be talking about spiritual warfare and the different fields of battle that this war takes place in. There are some serious topics here. But how often can we be drawn into the depths of seriousness? The muddy waters of sombreness and gloom? And yes, there is space for these feelings. Jesus never ignored them. But the key is that he never let them overwhelm him. When the enemy tried to force exaggerated gravity and despair upon him, he changed gears. He told a story. Made a joke. Shocked the crowd. Forced the devil into silence with something his enemy couldn’t respond to. Friends, we don’t meet our foe on his own low ground. 

That’s why we chose this particular front cover for this month’s issue of Intermission. It’s funny. It’s light. It’s quirky. And I believe when Nehemiah wrote, “The joy of the Lord is your strength!” he actually meant it. So, as we come to read the following articles in the coming weeks, let’s remember that our enemy Satan has no joy. And he certainly doesn’t know how to respond to laughter when he does everything he possibly can to get us to cry.

Below is the list of authors and that have written for us to explore this topic of ‘spiritual warfare’. I pray that they inspire, equip and empower you to go forward into the daily battles that you face with prayer, passion and perspective. Because the war is out there, but Jesus has promised that we will have the victory!

“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take courage; I have overcome the world!” – John 16:33.

 

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles and contexts, the Intermission publication will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. 

Each Intermission article will be uploaded periodically and can be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission. Alternatively, to receive the physical copy, feel free to email us at office@nzcms.org.nz or call us on 03 377 2222. 

 

Diaspora mission (Intermission – Issue 35)

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“Dad, can I show you a simpler way of doing that?” my teenage daughter remarked. I like to problem solve issues with my electronic gadgets but as I get older, I’m realising that I’m not as tech savvy as I was when I was younger. My digitally native teenage daughters have become my tech consultants. The roles have reversed.

When I (and my family) first arrived in Christchurch nine years ago, I had an interesting conversation with my neighbour when he asked what I did. I said I was a missionary from Kenya. After the initial shock, our discussion centred on what a contemporary missionary looks like. It was all new to him.

My friend, Mark Oxbrow, tells the story of African missionaries who are using the JESUS film and Arabic New Testaments to take the Gospel into hundreds of Arab homes in the Middle East. There they are able to share the film with children and read the Bible with their mothers. Sadly, these maids will never appear in any statistics of foreign missionaries. They will probably attract little prayer or financial support from Western churches so concerned about reaching the unreached. Mark calls this “mission from below” or “Majority world mission”. Those who were traditionally recipients of missionary work are now carriers of the Gospel.

Missionary migration  

The twenty-first century is shaping up as a century of immigration. Globally, the number of international migrants worldwide has continued to grow rapidly in recent years, reaching 258 million in 2017. Some of these migrants are missionaries.

The idea of God using migration to reach the nations with the Gospel is not new. God called Abraham to leave his homeland and go to a foreign land. God promised not only to bless Abraham but to bless the nations through him. In Acts we see the believers scattering due to persecution which led to the Gospel arriving in Africa! God has used “people on the move” as carriers of His Gospel to the corners of the earth and that includes Aotearoa. I personally have been recently meeting a number of people who told me God called them to come to New Zealand to share the gospel.

At NZCMS we’ve noticed what God is doing and have become more intentional in equipping churches in New Zealand to receive a diaspora missionary from the Majority World.

This idea of missionaries coming from places that previously were considered mission fields is what we are calling “diaspora mission”. I know the term is not necessarily the best one, but we use it because we want to help change the current narrative or paradigm that a missionary is one who comes from the ‘West to the Rest’, ‘The Powerful to the Less powerful’, ‘Wealthy to the Poor’ or any other sayings that are around!

You see, we need to radically revise our paradigm of who a missionary is in the contemporary, globalised world. A careful reading of mission history shows that the midwives of the Gospel over the decades have often been people in the margins rather than those at the centre of ecclesiastical power.

So why diaspora mission?

It’s about reciprocity and mutuality. As a product of the Western missionary movement, I am so grateful for those Kiwis who have served overseas, including in my country Kenya. But I think for far too long, mission has been a one-way street. It’s time to complete the circle. A reading of I Cor 12:21-22 from a global perspective affirms this idea and challenges us to consider how we can receive the gifts of the global Church.

“The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.”  

If the Lord is sending these “diaspora missionaries” here, are we willing to welcome them?

It could be like Joseph and Daniel of old where our ongoing prosperity as a nation spiritually, depends on how we welcome the strangers among us. As Jesus says, ‘And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward Matt 10:42

We need their help

New Zealand has become a largely secular nation despite its deep Christian roots. Kiwis need to hear the Good News in fresh and relevant ways, and sometimes ‘outsiders’ can do this more effectively than those immersed in their own culture. Missional Christians from other cultures can also play an important role in encouraging Kiwi churches to get involved in mission, both locally and beyond our borders, and can help them become better skilled and more effective in cross-cultural ministry. Diaspora missionaries who come from multi-ethnic contexts can also help us develop strategies towards becoming an intercultural church.

Like Paul, many Christians from places like Africa and Asia have heard a ‘Macedonian call from the West’ (Acts 16:9), “Please come to help us.” The Gospel need in our own land is driving them to come as missionaries to our shores. But, is the Kiwi Church ready to recognise our own struggles, faults and failures, and are we open to being challenged and changed by new ideas, outside voices and fresh approaches?

A strategy towards embracing intercultural missions 

So if your Church would like to call a diaspora missionary, where do you start?

I see one of NZCMS’s main contributions as facilitating contact between diaspora missionaries and host churches – a bit like a dating agency really! We’ll receive requests from New Zealand churches and use our global networks to connect these churches with overseas people who have the skills, abilities and experience needed. We’ll also provide cross-cultural orientation for diaspora missionaries, pastoral care back-up, advice in crisis situations and prayer support, as well as help host churches with cultural issues to help them receive their diaspora missionaries. 

I’ll close with a quote from Kenneth Bailey. “The gospel is not safe in any culture without a witness within that culture from beyond itself ”.

Diaspora missionaries are not only workers who provide capacity for the Church to reach more people, but they also help identify some of the cultural and spiritual blind spots we may have.

Questions to consider

What do you notice about the faith of those from other cultures around you?

What do you notice about the blind spots in your culture that ‘strangers’ might be able to point out?

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles and contexts, the Intermission publication will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. 

Each Intermission article will be uploaded periodically and can be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission. Alternatively, to receive the physical copy, feel free to email us at office@nzcms.org.nz or call us on 03 377 2222. 

Manaaki Mission Motivations: The Power of Hospitality (Intermission – Issue 35)

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What Aotearoa New Zealand’s bi-cultural journey can teach us about our mission among the nations.

Māori culture is a hospitality culture. We have a whakataukī (proverb), He tangata takahi manuhiri, he marae puehu — If people abuse or disregard their guests, their marae will be dusty. There is a play on words here with reference to the marae. It could refer to the marae ātea, the public forum or open area in front of the wharenui (meeting house) where visitors are met in a pōwhiri (welcoming protocol), but it is more properly understood as a verb to mean being generous or hospitable. Their hospitality will be dusty. In other words, shameful.

Integrated Foundations

In order to understand something of the Māori perspective of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the intercultural responsibilities of each party to that covenant, we need to appreciate some of the kaupapa (foundational values) of te ao Māori (the way Māori view the world) and its resulting priorities.

Culture is a complex concept. For Māori, cultural values are deeply integrated with each other and inseparable, making it impossible to discuss one aspect without inferring its relationship with our entire way of understanding the world. A life essence permeates it all, connecting all things to each other. Christians must not dismiss this view as pagan, animist or pantheist. Those terms are just modern Western constructs. No, Christians should readily attest to the life essence of all things, rooted in the very story of creation itself, a result of the utterance of the Word (John 1:4) and reverberating with Christ, in whom all things hold together (Col 1:17).

To develop healthy intercultural relationships from and within Aotearoa New Zealand it is helpful to understand the genesis of our bicultural foundation. To understand our bicultural foundation we need to comprehend our covenantal obligations under the Tiriti o Waitangi. To comprehend the intention of Te Tiriti we need to appreciate how Māori view hospitality (marae). To appreciate the values of hospitality for Māori we need to grasp the underlying concept of manaaki. Grasping manaaki will also help us better work out our participation in God’s mission in this world since Christ is the ultimate manifestation of manaaki.

Reinforcing Mana 

Māori concepts have many shades of meaning depending on the context in which they are used. Manaaki is one such concept-word. The Māori Bible translates as manaaki Hebrew words like berakah and the Greek eulogia (both translated as “blessing” in English). In my doctoral research, manaaki was explained to me by Māori Christian research participants as, “to āki (encourage or lift up) the mana (esteem, respect, honour, life essence) of another”.

Mana is core to understanding mana|āki and it is grossly underappreciated in our common usage. We could argue that mana is one of a handful of reinforcing rods that run through the foundations of a Māori view of the world. To see mana as merely honour or respect is to treat it very superficially. We do not have sufficient space here to do justice to the complex spiritual roots beneath the surface that emerge as mana. Suffice it to say, it is deeply compatible with a Biblical view of reality being created by God’s Word and breath.

Mana is the evidence in a person of their life essence and spiritual virtues. Pākehā would call it a person’s psycho-emotional make-up, preferences, strengths, and talents. Mana is a person’s charisma in the spiritual sense—our divine grace. Mana is the manifest evidence of all these things at work through all that a person is and does in relationship with others. For Māori, and no doubt many other tribe-oriented societies, a person’s mana is recognised by their community and ascribed to the person by the community—you cannot claim it for yourself. You can do things that affect the community and lose mana and you can do things for the community and gain mana. The more mana you are recognised for, the higher standing you have in the community. Mana is therefore relational currency, and a highly prized and defended treasure it is at that.

A Platform For Many

And so we come to Te Tiriti. There is no doubt in my mind that our Māori forebears understood and signed Te Tiriti as an act of manaaki. As a relationship-forming protocol. They extended hospitality to the British Crown on a national level, viewing the signing of Te Tiriti in a similar way that a hongi (nose press) seals the relationship at a pōwhiri on a marae. Māori leaders elevated the mana of the British visitors by extending them hospitality, allowing all those represented by the authority of the Crown to come in and treat the land as their home (but without ownership, for that was largely a foreign concept to Māori at the time). The offer of co-residence came with full expectation that the new settlers would do so guided by the ethics of the tangatawhenua (people of the land), just as you would expect to do on a marae. The British clearly did not see things the same way and used their mana against the people of the land, thereby losing mana in the eyes of Māori.

Most of us are well aware of how the relationship went bad. My aim is to emphasize why the relationship was formed in the first place. It was an act of generosity and hospitality, NOT an act of surrender in the face of a greater power. In the creation of the (enduring) covenant we know as Te Tiriti o Waitangi we have an agreement between two peoples: the tangatawhenua and the British Crown. That is why we call the relationship a bi-cultural one, but this is actually inappropriate terminology because the British Crown represents many cultures. Even in 1840, when Te Tiriti was covenanted, the British Empire ‘represented’ the Australian, Canadian, Indian, East and Southern African, and some Middle Eastern, Asian and Pacific Island indigenous peoples. How much our Māori Chiefs understood about the reach of the British Empire we cannot know, but they knew Queen Victoria was the head of a very large, multi-cultural domain. Te Tiriti therefore included all who would come under the auspices and rule of that empire, as permitted by the Queen’s delegated authority here—the Government.

The Government of Aotearoa New Zealand now represents the Crown in extending permission for migrants to come and settle in our land. To an extent, this is the Government’s right under Te Tiriti. Te Tiriti allowed them to govern and hold rule of law over those entering the land on the basis of the hospitality of the Crown. Māori were to retain their own sovereignty and co-reside in the land with a rule of law compatible with the Crown’s. But we all know how that has worked out in reality to date.

A Foundation To Build On

Māori may have had our hospitality abused by the Government and its settlers but that does not dismiss the power of hospitality as a deeply spiritual discipline. Christ had His hospitality abused by Jewish powers and Roman law as He held out an invitation to enter His Kingdom. As the Father sent the Son, so we are sent into the world (John 18:18) to extend Kingdom hospitality to those willing to come in. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to provide the very best manaaki you can to those seeking a place of peace where they can fully be who God has made them to be. This is our intercultural responsibility under Christ’s New Covenant. We must not let Jesus find our marae dusty. (Philippians 2:1-11)

Questions To Consider

How willing are you to extend hospitality to a stranger and open your home to them? What motivates you most when facing a stranger: fear of being abused, or the desire to esteem others in love, regardless of the potential cost? In what ways would mission ventures as we know them need to change for us to shift from condescension (imposing ourselves to give something we feel they lack) to mutuality (interdependent development)?

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles and contexts, the Intermission publication will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. 

Each Intermission article will be uploaded periodically and can be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission. Alternatively, to receive the physical copy, feel free to email us at office@nzcms.org.nz or call us on 03 377 2222. 

What is Intercultural Engagement? (Intermission – Issue 35)

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I am partial to a good Sri Lankan curry – and I’m slowly learning how to make them. I line my curry leaves, cumin, cardamom, chilli, cinnamon and mustard seeds up on the bench. I grind and mix them with the other ingredients and then simmer them all together. Finally – and often salivating from inhaling the aroma – it’s time to eat. Delicious!

 What is Intercultural engagement?

Intercultural engagement is a bit like the spices in a good curry. It’s incredible how a small amount of any spice can add flavour to an entire dish. But a concoction of spices simmered together can produce an incredible flavour; one with a richness and depth that no single spice can produce. It’s still possible to pick out the distinct notes of each spice. If anything, the contrast with the other spices complements and enhances their flavour. Together, they have been transformed into something else.

All analogies have limitations – and this one is no different – but, I think it does help to explain what we mean by intercultural engagement. Culture is something to be celebrated. Intercultural engagement recognises and honours the differences and commonalities between cultures, and values the contribution of each culture. Intercultural engagement takes place through respectful, authentic interactions that allow each person to be shaped by the others and in the process each is transformed to produce a depth and richness that wouldn’t be possible without the “other.’’ It isn’t a dilution of culture. In the same way that “iron sharpens iron”, intercultural engagement helps to draw out the best of every culture while making us more aware of our own cultural blind spots so that everyone benefits from the gifts that each has to contribute.

What about multicultural or cross-cultural?

We often find ourselves in multicultural or cross-cultural situations. Multicultural situations are an important first step that can provide the basis for intercultural engagement to flourish. Multiculturalism itself doesn’t require any interaction between different cultures. It simply means that there are multiple cultures present and acknowledges the diversity between them. In other words, all the spices are lined up on the bench but they haven’t actually been combined together…yet.

Likewise, done well, cross-cultural engagement becomes intercultural engagement. The term cross-cultural can sometimes reinforce an ‘us’ as the ‘givers’ and ‘them’ as the ‘receivers’ attitude. It can be hard where we are in the majority, or in positions of privilege or power to receive the gifts that others have to offer and for us to allow our own way of being and doing to be indelibly changed in the process. Cross-cultural engagement doesn’t have to be that way! Interculturality recognises reciprocity. No single culture is the ‘norm’; every culture is both giver and recipient.

A biblical analogy

Perhaps the best and most well-known biblical analogy for intercultural engagement is the image of the Body of Christ in 1 Corinthians. The church itself is meant to be the ultimate expression of intercultural engagement! The church is the united body of Christ where the difference inherent to each part of the body is essential to the functioning of the whole body. Each part must share a life-in-mutuality and solidarity with others, ensuring care, honour and protection of the most marginalised. It is this body that is the lived expression of unity in Christ.

When our own identity is founded in Christ, we aren’t defensive about our own inadequacies. Nor are we threatened by difference. Instead, we embrace ‘others’ as fearfully and wonderfully made. It’s only once we acknowledge the essential part of each member of the Body that we can flourish, growing into the fullness of Christ. God’s mission is to reconcile all things to one another and himself and the church, as Christ’s body, is meant to be a witness to all of humanity of the reconciling love and grace of God. An intercultural church is good news to a world fractured along cultural divides!

Using our imagination

What might an intercultural church look like? Intercultural engagement is dependent on relationship. Like the spices mixing together, or the parts of the body working together, it is the interdependent relationship that forms an intercultural community. Relationship is one of the best places to discover others’ strengths and gifts (and our own inadequacies and blind spots). We cannot be satisfied with being multicultural or cross-cultural in our church contexts or in the way we do mission. We have to get close enough to those who are different from us for authentic, reciprocal relationships to form.

Imagine a church where everyone’s gifts were known and utilised and where those with power and privilege empowered those from minority groups. Maybe there would be a roster of preachers from diverse cultural contexts. Maybe different languages would regularly be used for scripture readings and prayers. Maybe worship would be led by a variety of people using the style and music from their own cultural background. Maybe leadership would increasingly reflect the diversity within the church. Imagine this church engaging ‘interculturally’ in its local context. People from different cultural backgrounds would know that they are welcome and that this church, Christ’s body, is a place where they have value, can belong and can contribute because of, rather than in spite of, their differences.

Final thoughts

As the Body of Christ, we must learn how to engage interculturally within the church and in our communities. Like a good curry, it will require some simmering for the flavours to develop – we will need love, grace, patience and perseverance. But as we allow ourselves to be transformed into the fullness of Christ, the end result promises to be the best that God has for us. 

Questions to consider:

What might be some steps that can help a church community move towards becoming intercultural? How do you personally identify yourself culturally? Where are you from? What are the cultural influences that have shaped you? How can you learn from those who are culturally different from you in your context? How can you encourage them to use their gifts?

Recommended resources for further reading 

Dan Sheffield, The Multicultural Leader: Developing a Catholic Personality, Clements Publishing, 2005

Jay Ruka, Huia Come Home, 2007

Mark Lau and Juan F. Martinez, Churches, Cultures and Leadership, IVP: Illinois, 2011

Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace, Abingdon Press, 1996

Rosemary Dewerse, Breaking Calabashes, MediaCom Education Inc., 2013

Sandra Maria Van Opstal, The Next Worship: Glorifying God in a Diverse World, IVP, 2016

Soon-Chan Rah, Many Colours: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church, Moody Publishers, 2010

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles and contexts, each edition of the Intermission magazine will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. 

Each Intermission article will be uploaded periodically and can be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission. Alternatively, to receive the physical copy, feel free to email us at office@nzcms.org.nz or call us on 03 377 2222. 

A nation of many colours (Intermission – Issue 35)

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I’ve always loved to draw. Even when I was a kid I would write up little comics for hours (And force my parents to read them no doubt!). For whatever reason though, I always stuck with drawing. I never picked up a paintbrush. I think it was because, at the time, painting a picture with different colours just seemed too overwhelming. And messy! Also, I never found someone to teach me how.

Most of us know that a vibrant cultural diversity has filled New Zealand. But we all seem a bit separate and ‘uninvolved’ somehow don’t we? Sure we may interact with others somewhat. Say hello. Perhaps a couple of us have a friend from a different ethnicity than our own. But what have you learned from another that has challenged the way you view the world? Has your life been forever altered through an intercultural engagement? What memories come to your mind when you try to recall working with a group of diverse nationalities engaged together in God’s work? Have you heard sermons or Bible Studies in your church from an Asian perspective? A Middle Eastern? A Western? A Pacific Islander?

If you’re like me, and if you’re honest, you will struggle to answer any of these questions with a resounding “Yes!”. And if I’m honest, sometimes I don’t even want to think of an answer. Otherwise, it means taking responsibility and possibly changing something in my life. It’s simpler just not to think about it. Easier to understand. Uncomplicated. Not as messy. A little like drawing with a pencil.

But my friends, we’re a nation of many colours. The question is what are we going to do with them? Will we continue to think and dream and create with the only colour we’ve used in the past? Or is it time to begin choosing some different shades? 

I want to learn how to pick up a brush and start painting, and I’d love for you to join me. It will be messy. And yes, it may be quite complicated. But I believe the New Zealand Church is in a unique position to create something beautiful. And I think the Holy Spirit will be more than capable of teaching us how.

NZCMS’ quarterly magazine Intermission will arrive in your mailbox in the first week of June. We’ll also upload the PDF that week to this website. Within it are some incredibly valuable articles and resources all aimed at helping us becoming an interculturally engaged church. Feel free to contact us at office@nzcms.org.nz to subscribe to our mailing list or call us on +64 03 377 2222. Also keep an eye on our “Resources Tab” for an Intercultural Engagement page. Let’s start painting!

 

Where gladness and hunger meet (Intermission – Issue 34)

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“The place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” (Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC)

My deep gladness and the world’s hunger

Several years ago a group of my friends chose to relocate our lives to a neighbourhood where the social fabric was wearing thin, with holes and tears in some places. After a year spent praying for the neighbourhood we discerned that the best way to ‘help’ was to move in and become part of the neighbourhood. Early on, one of our team shared this quote from Buechner at our team night. Over the years, a passion for sport led him to start a Sunday afternoon football club for neighbourhood kids and he began to coach local sports teams so that young people who wouldn’t otherwise get the opportunity could not only play sports but also receive mentoring and discipleship. A passion for education and the different people and cultures in our world led him to become a teacher aide and eventually a secondary school teacher specialising in geography. With others, he opened his home to students from refugee backgrounds who had nowhere else to go. None of it was easy for him. But he could have joy amongst the day-to-day struggles because he’d found the sweet spot where his own deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger met.

When I first heard Buechner’s quote and tried to figure out what my deep gladness was, the first thing that came to mind was good food. I felt very unspiritual! Yet, when I think about my ministry in that neighbourhood, it was my love of food (making, eating and sharing it) that was foundational to meeting a deep hunger. No pun intended. God is in the business of satisfying the hungry with good things (Luke 1:53), and in opening our meal table we were able to join him in this task. Bellies were filled. But equally, loneliness and isolation were eased? and desire for connectedness and belonging satisfied.

In the early days, our family celebrations became opportunities to bring people from every part of our community together. Over food, friendships were formed between people who might never have otherwise met or only met in adversarial settings: migrants and former refugees, self-identified gangsters and ‘streeties’, religious leaders and social service providers, Christians, Muslims, agnostics, law-makers and activists. For that season our call to ‘go’ was actually to stay home and reclaim the kind of hospitality (literally “love of strangers”) described in the gospels (Mark 2:13-16; Luke 14:12-14, 19:1-10; Matt 25:35-36). In doing so we were privileged to experience the richness of God’s banquet table and to invite others to experience the goodness of God’s Kingdom.

When the going gets tough

Following God’s call is not always easy. It does not always include happiness, security or comfort (Matt 16:24-26). However, there are many things that help to sustain us in our call when life gets difficult. One aspect that offers sustenance is the joy to be found at the intersection of our passion and God’s mission. Straight out of university, I volunteered as a lawyer in South Asia to help rescue people from modern-day slavery. It was hard, gruelling work. The pursuit of truth and justice is part of my hardwiring so when freedom and justice for victims seemed elusive, living in the intersection of my passion and God’s mission helped sustain me as we waited for God’s kingdom to break through.

A few years later some of us started a social enterprise cafe that helped equip young people who weren’t in education, employment or training. I did the baking and helped mentor the young women. It was a different type of hospitality than that practised in the gospels, but one that had potential to provide economic and social justice for those who might otherwise get left behind. All twelve young people who completed their work experience with us successfully transitioned to paid employment and a few years later we can see the fruitfulness of the investment in many of their lives. It was physically exhausting and financially draining (we were only open a year and had some debt to pay back), but in the midst of a painful and challenging season, we knew that we were at the place where our deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger met.

How to find your call 

So how do we discern where God is calling us to? Buechner helpfully writes: “There are all different kinds of voices calling to you, all different kinds of work and the problem is finding out which is the voice of God, rather than that of society, say, or the super-ego or self-interest. By and large, a good rule for finding out is this: The kind of work God usually calls you to, is the kind of work (a) that you need most to do, and (b) that the world most needs to be done…

If you really get a kick out of your work, you’ve presumably met requirement (a), but if your work is writing TV deodorant commercials, the chances are you have missed requirement (b). On the other hand, if your work is being a doctor in a leprosy colony, you have probably met requirement (b), but if most of the time you are bored and depressed by it, the chances are you’ve not only bypassed (a) but you probably aren’t helping your patients much either…”

How kind it is of God to call us to serve His Kingdom in ways that are life-giving for us too. If you find yourself pouring out for the sake of God’s Kingdom but you feel heaviness, bitterness and the weight of your sacrifice and service overwhelming you, then perhaps you need to consider whether you’re serving where God has called you. Conversely, if you already love what you do but struggle to answer how it is advancing God’s mission, perhaps you need to re-think how you can meet the world’s deep hunger. God’s call always sends us to serve His Kingdom in the world (Matthew 28:18-20; John 17:18, 20:21). What we must learn to do well is to discern the intersection of our passion and God’s mission in every season of our life.

Questions to consider:

What do you think Buechner means by “deep gladness”? How is this different from happiness? What are the things that could be your deep gladness? Where could these meet the world’s deep hunger?

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of the Intermission magazine will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. To signup to receive the Intermission in the post, email office@nzcms.org.nz. Intermission articles can also be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission.

Shadow and mission (Intermission – Issue 34)

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Guilt. That silent foe that can yell louder than any outside distraction. That internal voice screaming from within that diminishes any joy or life meant to be lived. I’m very conversant with this inner voice. Not so much in words, but in feelings. Not visible to others but always felt. Like a CD stuck on a scratch, jumping, repeating, and skipping over and over. Always heard, it becomes a familiar part of life. In the business, it may fade into the background but it’s always there, following me like a shadow. A guilt shadow.

I grew up as the child of both missionaries and ministers. Most of my childhood was exceptional. I have many wonderful memories and experiences that I find myself drawing from more and more as I grow older. However, like any child, my parents could not control everything in my life, and certainly not how I would interpret different events. Somewhere along the way, guilt crept into my soul. Like a subtle, dark shadow that followed my every move. Guilt for what I did and said. Guilt for what I didn’t do or say. Guilt for how I looked and what I wanted. As a primary aged child, guilt was my constant shadow, blocking the light.

On one level it could simply be due to my personality type and a deep conscience. However, in recent reflections, I have come to recognise it as a tool used so well by the “enemy of our soul”, paralysing me from hearing and following the call of God.

What does this have to do with mission?

For many years as a young adult, I wrestled with this shadow for not being a missionary or in Christian ministry. Instead, my husband and I lived in an idyllic, picturesque country town in South Canterbury. Sure, we were involved in our local church, but I felt guilty that it wasn’t ‘real ministry’. Every time I listened to a visiting missionary or watched something on TV about aid work overseas, the guilt shadow would cloud my vision, hindering me from seeing anything else. In hindsight, I realise I allowed it to be my reason for avoiding God. After all, how could God call me when I was so full of guilt?

Sometime in the midst of this, I read the following passage:

“This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in His presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from Him anything we ask because we keep His commands and do what pleases Him. And this is His command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commanded us. And this is how we know that He lives in us: We know it by the Spirit He gave us (1 John 3.19-22).”

The context of this passage is the assurance of salvation as evidenced by our actions of love for each other. This was truly living water for my parched soul. Although my own heart condemned me, I realised that God was greater than any guilt, or false conscience. God alone knew the depths of my heart and my desire to live in love for Him and for others. God also knew that for so long, this desire had been overshadowed by the guilt shadow. 

What you see when the shadow fades

I began to see that the guilt for not doing things in a certain way was actually hindering me from following God’s call to believe in Jesus and to love others. Guilt for not doing was preventing me from doing!

In the light of this truth, the guilt shadow gradually began to fade and my eyes began to see. Loving my husband and teaching my children was ministry. Taking soup and flowers to the new Mum who moved into town was mission. My heart sang when I saw light in my friend’s eyes as we talked about the grace and love of God she had found. I began to sense the smile of God as I helped to clean when a family was moving house or agreed to look after a child while their Mother went to an appointment. The more I spent time with God, and read the Word, the more confidence I felt in the Spirit’s call on me to actively look for ways to show love to those around me.

How often do we sit in guilt for what we are not doing in Africa or Bosnia, when we do not even know the name of our next door neighbour? How often do we forget to see the love and care for the elderly and the sick in our communities as mission and ministry just as equal to working in the slums of Kolkata if God has called us to it? The Spirit whom Christ gave us is the One who calls us to where God’s love can shine the brightest through us! For some, that will be with war victims in Syria. For others, it is with the lonely widow next door or the special needs child at your son’s school. Perhaps the lowest caste of Bangladesh is where the Spirit calls you. Or maybe it is to the professional woman at work who looks immaculate but is eaten alive by regret. The road worker on your street whose son committed suicide last year. The 90-year-old, loyal church attendee who is afraid of death. The enemy revels in believers who stay trapped by the guilt shadow to live a pale, dim version of who they are created to be. But no matter who or where we are, living out the love of Christ is what we’re all called to do.

So I invite you: acknowledge and repent of living under the guilt shadow and remaining paralysed. Ask the Spirit to open your eyes to live in love, whether that’s in your street or on the other side of the world. Wherever you are, if you are living in the love of the Spirit, you can be confident you are living in God’s Mission.  

Questions to consider 

In what area of your life do you feel paralysed by guilt? Ask God to reveal any lies you’ve believed and replace them with the light of his truth.

What opportunities are available for you to reveal the love of God? Ask God to highlight a person or situation to you. 

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of the Intermission magazine will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. To signup to receive the Intermission in the post, email office@nzcms.org.nz. Intermission articles can also be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission.

 

At home with Mission

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When I applied for my current job at NZCMS (New Zealand Church Missionary Society) I had no idea of what the letters stood for or what the organisation did.  That was pretty much my knowledge of missions as well.  So as you might imagine I went on a bit of a learning curve.

The staff here include an ordained Anglican minister, one who spent 15 years in the mission field, another who in their spare time lectures at Laidlaw, a Pastors kid,and more recently we have been joined by a couple who have served on the mission field in the Pacific and Cambodia.  At the time I started I was one of only two staff who had never been on a mission trip, had no theological training and no inclination to offer our lives in service in the mission field.  Boy did I feel overwhelmed!

Over the years since I’ve gone on what I jokingly call my backwards journey into mission.  I have been absorbing as much as I can to understand the incredible people who serve overseas, why they go, and the joy they bring in sharing the Good News about our Lord.  This backwards journey has been accompanied by several underlying questions:  Why are less Christians engaging in mission than in the past?  And how do we engage churches and people in mission?

Mission isn’t limited to going overseas, it includes all Christians in New Zealand, many who are called to support those who serve as missionaries.  My journey has immersed me in educational opportunities:  The Samaritan Strategy to learn about “Seed Projects” (“Seed Projects” are small-scale, holistic outreach initiatives through which local churches demonstrate God’s love in practical ways to those in their community);  studying Biblical Theology through Laidlaw; Kairos; learning about the Five Marks of Mission as decreed by the Anglican Church;  “Friendship First” a course focused on making friends with our Muslim brothers and sisters; Care of Creation and a myriad DVD’s, books, articles and frequent musings over our coffee breaks.

These experiences started to influence how I viewed life in my local parish of St Augustine’s.  Like most churches we have a small missions committee that prays regularly for mission, but in the wider congregation there is so much to prioritise.  This includes worship teams, ministries, events, family, school, work and life in general.  Amongst all this arose a quandary, how do we get others to consider overseas mission when many of us are struggling to be missional right here in our own backyard.

Recently I was introduced to a course called “Empowered to Influence.”  It’s a four week course of two hours a week that brings about a paradigm shift in how we approach our faith on a daily basis.  It’s founded by a Singaporean businessman who wanted to be a missionary but God placed him in the market place instead.  A huge disappointment for him.  However, after 20 years spent figuring out why, he has realised that God has placed him (and us!) right where we are now for a reason.  We have been placed right here to be salt and light to the secular world around us.  We can flourish in a non-Christian workplace.  We do have the power to influence those we encounter.  Some may be familiar with the terms Theology of Work or Monday Church, where church is not just sitting in a pew on Sunday but about the rest of the week—that Monday to Saturday we are living out our lives.  In this course we were introduced to seven tangible paradigm shifts that can be implemented immediately, and without barely even realising it.

I ran the course in my home group where we found much to discuss.  Ten thought provoking weeks later the results were clear.  One man who works as a driver where every second word is non-printable realised that he could be missional right there in his work-place, resulting in increased job satisfaction.  He gained the confidence to start conversations with some co-workers struggling with issues and even to pray with them.  For a mum, there was the realisation that hosting foreign students isn’t just a great cultural experience, but also an opportunity to be salt and light in those student’s lives.  Her desire being to make such an impact that they will be inspired take back to their native land with them.  Another participant was so excited she insisted the course needed to be opened up to our whole parish.

After a couple of brief conversations, the course was booked and the promotion of it throughout our church organised with the parish office.  As the driving force behind this new thing a doubt surfaced in my mind, ‘is this me forcing this on my church or is this really the will of God?’ 

The following Sunday rolled around quickly and the sermon was based on Mark, chapter 6, where Jesus is teaching his disciples how to do the work of ministry and giving them some important tools for that ministry.  Our minister saw the promo video about the course for the first time at the early service.  He was so excited by what he saw that he incorporated it into his sermon for the later service!

God’s way is to have all believers taking part in his mission, Missio Dei, and collectively we will influence the whole world for Him.  One of the things holding many of us back is the feeling that we are not equipped.  We are challenged on this course that we are all equipped, in fact we’re over equipped to such an extent we don’t know where to start.  Too many programmes and too much teaching on the rights and wrongs.  There is also the mind-set that it’s the ministers, missionaries, the volunteers, the retired, the lay people with whom the responsibility lies.  But it’s actually us, the normal day to day Christians who step out into our communities who are best equipped and placed by God to be influencing others.

The course does not tell us to go out and ear-bash anyone.  We do not stand on a corner with a Bible in our hands. It is actually quite the opposite.  As Christians living in a secular society we will be judged in our workplace and communities as being those Christians.  It is by getting alongside our secular colleagues and our friends that we can live out Kingdom values in front of them.  They will see that there is something different about us.

Ken Chua the facilitator of this course says that 8 out of 10 people who join his work-place come to know Christ.  To quote Dr Ravi Zacharias, “When the beauty of Christ is seen, He draws people unto Himself.  Conversion is never an enforced thing.  It is an attractive thing, the work of God… I say, live for Jesus and when people see the beauty of Christ in you, they will ask you questions and they will want the same results in their life.”

And back to that underlying fear… ‘Is this my will or God’s?’ After the introduction evening, the room is a buzz and the future of this course is again moving into another realm as the participants brain storm the next step with comments such as “this course is wasted on just the 12 of us… this needs to go to the whole church,” “It’s good enough to replace a sermon…actually…could we run this each week instead of the sermon…?”—“Let’s give our vicar a rest….” All these responses are not of my making. Such is only possible when God’s will and the power of his Holy Spirit is at work. 

It is hard to believe the time when I didn’t even consider mission was something I could participate in.  Finding out I can do it as I am, where I am, has not only opened my own eyes to the possibility of God working through me but is changing our congregational outlook as well.  I encourage you all to investigate it for yourself and be ready to see God at work.  

 

Empowered To Influence